This month a new gate was unveiled in Harvard Yard, near Houghton Library. It was made possible through support from Peter J. Solomon ’60, M.B.A. ’63, and his wife, Susan, as part of a larger gift, announced in January 2019, to renovate Houghton Library. That donation also included an extensive collection of rare and treasured children’s literature and illustrations, including a copy of the suppressed first edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” These volumes not only provided the catalyst for the Houghton renovation but also inspired some elements of the new gate’s design.
“Susan and I hope that the renovation of Houghton, with its modernized structure and expanded accessibility, will entice more undergraduates and visitors to explore its collection of unique manuscripts, illustrations, and books,” Solomon said. “The new gate is an architectural invitation to Houghton and in its detail connects to our collection of children’s literature, which we are pleased to add to Houghton’s treasures.”
The Peter J. Solomon Gate starts a new chapter to the history of the gates that have stood there over the years. The original Dudley Gate was dedicated in 1915 and demolished in 1947 to make way for the Lamont Library and a service gate in its place.
The Gazette recently spoke with Eric Höweler, designer of the Peter J. Solomon Gate, associate professor of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and co-founding principal of Höweler + Yoon Architecture. He discussed the importance of discovery and uncovering the half-hidden clues and themes embedded in the Yard gates; how that informed his design; and how he hopes the gate will encourage those who pass through it to think differently.
As co-founding principal of Höweler + Yoon Architecture, he has worked on recent projects including the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia and the MIT Collier Memorial, commemorating the life of Officer Sean Collier, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombers.
GAZETTE: How did you think about this gate as one of many in the Yard?
HÖWELER: Each gate tells a story. Each one speaks of its time. In the book “The Gates of Harvard,” Blair Kamin, N.F. ’13, looks at the stories and histories behind these gates, and how they are full of lore. His book is a kind of investigative journalism, almost an archaeology. He makes a beautiful argument that there’s so much eclectic architecture within the Yard, and that it is the gates that bind the central campus together. Our approach for this new gate was to find a way to design it so that it would become part of an ensemble but that it would also speak to this time. We hoped this gate might tell different stories, and maybe some of those stories might be quite subtle.